Raissa Malu

Women in STEM in DRC

The establishment of a database of women working in science has begun.

On 20th April, we presented the Database of Women in Science in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of the 6th edition of the Science and Technology Week (#SST6RDC). This initiative launched earlier this year aims to bring together women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) from the DRC into a network to deconstruct stereotypes about women and science, facilitate the sharing of information and opportunities, and foster mentoring and positive representation. Indeed, we are convinced that we, the STEM women, are stronger together and that the world would benefit from knowing us better.

The gala evening for the  official presentation of this database was organized with the support of the L'Oréal-UNESCO Foundation with the For Women In Science project, UN Women, the Banque commerciale du Congo (BCDC) and Sultani Makutano. Eight Women STEM DRC (see photo above), our "Amazons of Sciences", were highlighted. They are science teacher, computer scientist, entrepreneur (biologist), researcher (biologist), physicist, geologist, developer and pilot. They built, moved, seduced and amazed the audience with their personal stories, determinations, intelligence, skills, smiles, good humour, sensitivities, strengths and weaknesses. I invite you to read the report of this 6th edition published on our website for details.

First assessment

Here, I would like to give you an overview of this database six months after its launch.

We currently have 397 women enrolled, 362 in STEM and 35 in the humanities, economics and social sciences. The latter are not included in this analysis. Who are the others?

Women under forty are the most numerous. This is a lot of potential candidates to replace me as Ambassador of the Next Einstein Forum for the DRC. Yippee! 😊

Amazones 1

In secondary school, the majority of them chose scientific optional subjects, 49% biology-chemistry and 23% mathematics-physics.

At university, among those who chose mathematics-physics, we find the majority of female physicists (8 out of 11) and mathematicians (9 out of 11), a quarter of female computer scientists (21 out of 83) and 40% of female engineers. Physicists and mathematicians together represent only 6% of our sample! However, in the context of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the DRC and Africa will need "armies" of mathematicians and physicists with computer scientists. Fortunately, the latter area is of interest to women in the DRC. They are the most numerous in our database, 23% female computer scientists.

School optional subjects

Among those who studied biochemistry in high school, we find ALL chemists (18) and the majority of biologists (44 out of 54). The others specialized in geology and petroleum sciences (12 of 16), environmental sciences (12 of 18) and agronomy, bioengineering and agri-food sciences (31 of 49). For a country where agriculture is a so-called priority sector, with nearly 80 million hectares of arable land, it would take more than 14% (proportion in our database) of women who specialize in agronomy, bioengineering and agri-food sciences! In this category, one quarter of female computer scientists (19 out of 83) and one third of female engineers (18 out of 53) have completed high school with an option in biology and chemistry.

Amazones 2

Let's go back to the computer scientists. The other women in this category have completed secondary education in Business and Administration (16 of 83), Technical and Vocational Education (8 of 83), Latin-Philosophy and Literature (12 of 83) and General Pedagogy (5 of 83).

General Pedagogy is a "traditional" option chosen by those who are afraid, hate, tell themselves or are said to be null in math. Well, apart from computer scientists, there are also agronomists (5 out of 18), biologists (2 out of 18) and engineers (3 out of 18). As for the 24 literary, this other option for "those who are bad at math or science", half of them have become computer scientists! The other 12 became doctors, biologists, agronomists, petroleum scientists and technicians, environmental scientists and engineers. For supposedly "bad at math" people, that's not so bad!

A reform of education

As we know, the choices made in secondary school do not determine 100% the fields in which we will best develop in higher education. But a good education in secondary school can avoid many pitfalls later on. With that in mind, the experts of the Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Vocational Education have just proposed the fusion of the mathematical-physical and biochemical optional subjects of secondary education into a single optional subject, the Scientific optional subject with an adaptation of the pedagogical system of the field of science learning.

The DRC wants to better prepare its young people for university studies. This merger will be tested in pilot schools starting in the 2020-2021 school year with the programmes of the Science Learning Domain of 5th and 6th General Secondary (Scientific Humanities 3 and 4) modernized by the Education for Quality and Relevance of Secondary and University Teaching Project (PEQPESU). Similarly, a new strategic framework for secondary education is being developed to rethink the sectors in the country's contexts for a more efficient Congolese education system.

Mostly teachers and researchers

Finally, let us look at the sectors in which these women STEM DRC are working. They are mainly in the school, university and higher institute sectors as students (23%) or professors, heads of research, researchers and doctoral students (7%). The others are employed in the private sector, the public sector and associations. We have (only) 10% of CEO/Manager/Executive. My friend, Nicole Sulu, President of the Sultani Makutano Business Network, will certainly ask me for a strategy to increase this number. 😉

Amazones 3

As for their geographical distribution, they are mainly located in Kinshasa (233 out of 362) and in the diaspora (48 out of 362). I am happy to have my other sisters in North Kivu (25), South Kivu (27), Haut-Katanga (10), Kongo-Central (6), Tshopo (5), Ituri (2), Kasaï-Oriental (2) and Lualaba (1).

To all my STEM sisters, I say thank you. Thank you for having integrated this database of Women in Science in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Your journey and experience will inspire others, girls and boys, men and women.

A basis to be enriched

Science and technology are not the miracle cures for all the problems of our nation, our continent, humanity and the planet. They can even sometimes be the source of difficulties. Nevertheless, they offer us tools, techniques, a way of approaching and reflecting on the problems that allow us to build a better and viable world for us today and those who will be there tomorrow (provided that we collaborate with other specialties and expertise).

Science is fun, join us!😊 Please, like, comment and share !

If you are a Congolese woman or a woman whose origin is in DRC, you have a training in STEM or you work in these fields, if you are not already registered in the database, we invite you to do so now by completing this form. Join the community and together we inspire the world and future generations.

This post has first been published on LinkedIn. It has been translated in English by Afriscitech.

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